Bill to lower gambling age appears to be DOA in Nevada Legislature

If you’re old enough to fight and die for your country, you should be old enough to play blackjack and drop a few dollars into a slot machine at the local casino.

At least, that’s the logic of Assemblyman Jim Wheeler, R-Gardnerville, who brings to the table Assembly Bill 86, which, with any luck at all, will be 86’d right out of the Legislature.

The bill would reduce the legal age to gamble in Nevada from 21 to 18.

Credit to Wheeler for introducing a philosophical debate among lawmakers. But with just four months to complete the business of the state and the introduction of a solution to a problem that doesn’t seem to exist, it makes no sense to spend any time on a proposal that isn’t going anywhere.

“Dead on arrival,” one gaming regulator said at a recent meeting.

Colleague Colton Lochhead reached out to Nevada Gaming Commission Chairman Tony Alamo about the proposal, and he was as puzzled as everybody else about it.

“The industry has not come to us with any wants for dropping this,” Alamo said. “Everyone’s happy with 21 years of age.”

Indeed, Virginia Valentine, president of the Nevada Resorts Association, said her membership isn’t bucking to change the law.

“We’ve never supported it in the past,” she said. “There’s really no compelling reason to change that position.”

In fact, the change could create a problem.

With a legal gambling age of 18 and a legal drinking age of 21, drink servers at casinos would be compelled to card patrons to see if they could be served a drink.

Of course, the argument could be made that carding a customer might be a good thing because casinos could guard against underage drinking as well as underage gambling.

Some observers say that adding players who are 18, 19 and 20 could increase play and thus generate additional tax revenue for the state.

But really, just how much money would the average 18-to-20-year-old spend gambling? For the state, it looks like a big investment with little return.

Nevada is no longer the only state with casinos. What’s the legal gambling age everywhere else?

For most, it’s 21.

According to the casino.org website, the legal age to gamble at tribal casinos in Alaska, Idaho, Minnesota and Wyoming is 18.

In some states, the legal age is 18 or 21, depending on the game. For example, the age to legally place pari-mutuel bets — the type most commonly associated with horse racing — is 18 in Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Washington.

If you’re 18, you can play bingo at casinos in Connecticut, Florida, New Mexico, Oregon, Wisconsin and at tribal casinos in South Dakota (but not the commercial sites in Deadwood).

For real confusion, the legal gambling age is 18 or 21, depending on the casino, in California, New York and Oklahoma.

It’s easy to sympathize with 18-year-olds who wonder why they can drive, vote and go to war but can’t consume alcohol or gamble. It doesn’t make sense.

But it’s a debate from which legislators should keep away.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.